'Unacceptable’ that risky police cars are still in use
At least 55 police cars in Scotland are fitted with an engine that risks burning into flames when driven at high speeds, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request has found.
Police Constable Nick Dumphreys was killed when his BMW caught fire on the M6 near Carlisle in 2020, with English police forces subsequently banning officers from driving at more than 90mph if their patrol car is fitted with a similar engine.
The FoI request by the Scottish Conservatives revealed that 55 marked police vehicles in Scotland have the at-risk three-litre N57 engine, while Police Scotland refused to say how many unmarked cars may also be compromised.
The party’s justice spokesman, Jamie Greene, said it was “simply unacceptable” that officers were still driving the potentially dangerous vehicles and said real-terms cuts to police capital funding in the Scottish government’s budget was insufficient to maintain the fleet of cars.
Mr Greene said: “It is deeply concerning to learn that so many Police Scotland vehicles are fitted with these potentially dangerous engines.
“If these vehicles are unsafe when driven at high speed then they are clearly not fit for purpose – and I’m appalled that officers are still being expected to use them.
“We’ve known for some time that chronic under-funding from the SNP has left Police Scotland with an ageing, inadequate fleet, but this is simply unacceptable.
“This underfunding has also led to one in 20 police officers being lost from Scotland’s streets since the SNP centralised the police force.
“The Scottish Conservatives called for a £36.5 million package of extra capital support for Police Scotland in the Budget, but Kate Forbes ignored us and cut it. She, and the SNP, must belatedly see sense.”
Earlier this year, police forces across the UK told officers not to drive BMW patrol cars with an N57 engine ‘too fast’ during pursuits and emergency call outs. The Northern Echo reported that Durham Constabulary had adopted a “no pursuit policy,” leaving officers “frustrated” that they cannot do their jobs properly.
BMW has not revealed the exact nature of the problem, but claims that it is only an issue for the police and should therefore not be of concern to most consumers.
In its statement, BMW UK said: “The safety of our customers and their vehicles is of utmost importance to BMW. We have been working with the police for some time on a technical matter linked to a small number of special high-performance vehicles.
“This issue is associated with the particular way in which the police operate these high-performance vehicles. This unique usage profile puts extra strain on some components and therefore BMW has specified a special servicing programme for these vehicles.
“There is no need for action on any civilian vehicles. This has been a dynamic and developing situation and we continue to work closely with the police.”
The police are now widely aware of the issue and are taking action in conjunction with BMW. Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on police driving, said: “We are aware there may be an issue with some older vehicles in our fleet and we are taking urgent steps to ensure this is addressed, including offering guidance to forces.
“Chiefs are working with the National Association of Police Fleet Managers to examine any risks. Our priority at this time is to ensure the safety and the long-term integrity of the equipment our officers use.”